Last Saturday saw the 10th anniversary of the Ultimate Seminar, a day at the University of Westminster jam packed with an array of inspirational speakers shedding light on the joys of the music industry as well as its evident trials and tribulations. Colin Barlow, A&R specialist and President of RCA Records described the current state of the music industry as “like an aeroplane changing its engine mid-flight”. Encouraging stuff. Barlow went on to recount the pivotal day when a chap from Newcastle randomly dialled his number and asked if he could play him a tune down the phone. Barlow hesitated warily and then thought ‘why the hell not’. Thanks to his willing spontaneity he soon became one of the first people to experience the beautiful sounds of The Lighthouse Family and after a lot of hard work convinced his label to sign them. Barlow said his perseverance and undying passion for music was essential for success in his relentless position as A&R.
Although the day was admittedly full of encouraging cliché’s like “believe in yourself and you will succeed”, “Fortune favours the brave” and “Just be yourself”, the producer Naughty Boy’s story was a motivating tale of determination as well as well-deserved pot luck. Having dropped out of university the skint Shahid Khan aka Naughty Boy decided to enter the hit TV game show ‘Deal or No Deal’. I kid you not. On the morning of the show Naughty Boy said that two white doves flew into his room and landed on the table: “I immediately knew I was gonna get lucky man”. That day Naughty Boy went home 44 grand richer and used the money to build his own recording studio. The first collab project he landed was with Emeli Sande and he later rocketed to number 1 with his song ‘La La La’. Sat in between both his manager and Ted Cockle the MD of Virgin he said that all would have been impossible without their everlasting support.
The last panel of the day was flooded with artists such as The Night VI, Shannon Saunders, Jacob Banks and Etta Bond, all stored on my groaning itunes. It’s fair to say it was a surreal experience. George the Poet, who has recently been signed personally by Darcus Beese, spoke whimsical words of wisdom about the music industry in which he feels businessmen have tried to perform the impossible conversion of an art into a science. He encouraged the budding songwriters in the audience not to trouble themselves with the science of the business side to music making but to just be themselves and channel their energy into producing the music they were made to create.
The best part of the day had gravitated towards the topic of ‘getting noticed’. As an artist do you wait for an A&R to find you or do you need to desperately put yourself out there? Is it important to have an established twitter fan base or is having no following whatsoever more of a statement. Conflicting personal views from the panel seemed to confuse the desperate twenteens of the audience yearning for ‘the answer’. However one piece of advice stood out for me. One of the Baker Boys grabbed the mic and said ‘ just listen, get off twitter and make your own trends, enough said.’
Tip from the day: Tom Prior is the one to watch from Darcus Beese.